Beating BMI: The Healthy Body Score Card

sharma-obesity-kids-scale2Today’s guest post comes from Canadian Obesity Network’s Bootcamper (2009) Ian Patton, currently a post-doctoral Fellow at the Toronto Bloorview Research Institute and the University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health,  who asks for your help in developing a new assessment tool for obesity in kids.

I wanted to share some background on the development of the Healthy Body Scorecard, an alternative to BMI that we think is a more personalized, well-rounded interpretation of each child’s health.

We’re also asking for your help in improving the Health Body Scorecard by filling out our survey (see below).

It all started in January 2011 when I attended the first conference for The Sandbox Project – a national charity organization directed at making Canada the healthiest place for children to grow and live. The Sandbox project  has four working groups, Injury Prevention, Environment, Mental Health, and the one I’m involved with, Growing Healthy Bodies.

Originally, our working group was titled the “Healthy Weights” and was primarily focused on obesity. Early on we hit some bumps in the road, mainly due to concerns about the focus on Body Mass Index (BMI), particularly with children. Children are in a rapid state of growth, making it difficult to accurately categorize them, not to mention the potential unintended harms associated with focusing on weight.

We felt that with all its flaws, limitations and misuse at the individual level, BMI was a very poor indicator of health and actually distracted from the real issues regarding the behavioral, environmental and social factors that influence growing healthy bodies (not just obese ones).

These concerns with BMI are especially relevant for children with disabilities. Differing body compositions and measurement difficulties bring up questions regarding the usefulness of BMI for these children. Our working group felt it was important to shift the focus away from weight and BMI as key indicators of health.

It was this shift that led to the rebranding of the working group into Growing Healthy Bodies.

The Healthy Body Scorecard

From my involvement with the Growing Health Bodies group and the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, we came up with the idea of developing a new health screening tool that could be used in clinical practice.

This tool would address some of the limitations of BMI and provide the health care practitioners with a more personalized, well-rounded interpretation of each child’s health. The result, called “The Healthy Body Scorecard,” is proposed as a user-friendly and inclusive health screening tool for children aged 2-18.

When a child visits a health care practitioner they often have their weights, height and BMI recorded. We propose that the Healthy Body Scorecard be used in the same manner. In contrast to those previous measures, it would take more than simple anthropometrics into account. The Healthy Body Scorecard will be able to quickly track key items regarding behavior and environment alongside the anthropometric measurement.

Some of the items for the scorecard might be things that health care practitioners already identify and record. However, the Healthy Body Scorecard would centralize and standardize the collection of this information. We are also interested in developing a “self-complete” version of the scorecard that parents and youth could complete on their own (either at home or in waiting rooms) prior to appointments with health care practitioners.

Surveys – we want your input

In this preliminary research we are looking for feedback from subject matter experts on the suggested items for the Healthy Body Scorecard, as well as information on the potential barriers to the implementation of a tool like this.

We are looking for participants to complete two brief, anonymous online surveys to provide feedback on the Healthy Body Scorecard. In one survey we are seeking health care practitioners from across Canada with an interest in paediatric health care to provide feedback. In the other, we are seeking input from parents regarding the Healthy Body Scorecard and the feasibility of a “self-complete” version of the scorecard.

If you are interested in more information about the surveys or would like to provide some feedback through participating, please follow the links below to the two surveys.

Health Care Practitioner Survey

Parent Feedback Survey

Thanks for your support.

Ian Patton, PhD